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Summer is over...but it's not a bad thing

Garfield


It has been some crazy past few weeks. Let me do a quick summary of what's happened:


  • I got into work today at 9:45am. Yes, AM! I had a crazy idea (based on an American Dad episode - the one where Roger has the "Sidney" persona that takes the hit out on himself. You remember that one? Don't cha? Right? Anyway...) to place my glasses by my "alarm". I turned off the alarm at 8:15 this morning (because Keat had to get into school before 10), reset it for 9, and went back to sleep. I got up at 9, turned off the alarm, and put my glasses on. Somehow, I felt more....awake and didn't want to go back to bed. So I got dressed, shaved, etc, and went into work. Anyway, I spent 2 hours going through my Reader and finding a lot of interesting business- and website-related articles that I felt would be good resources to share with the interwebs. So I scheduled i-don't-know-how-many posts into the Shadow Dev facebook page all the way through August 30, posting 2 per day. I then got the green light from Tom to send out an intro letter to a potential client in Asheville (after much editing), and sending some carefully worded explanations out as well. Afterwards, I worked on the Analysis followup links (see more below) and created that from almost-scratch to finished; jQuery, Paypal, form creation, and all, in a matter of about 2 hours. I then worked on a setInterval() on the Shadow Dev β site making random testimonials show up in a testimonial box every 4.5 seconds. That took about an hour or so. I had the hardest time figuring out 1) how to have the loop continuous, then 2) having the previous entry fade out, then the new one fade in. Afterwards, I met with Marti (see below) at 2 and met with her until about 4:45ish discussing different and new Project Management techniques, forms, and methods, along with a "Project Closure" sequence, which is new to me. I was getting things prepped for my teleconference at 7 when Tom sent me some requested files for the Maintenance and Rewards programs. I used the files he sent over to create the Rewards and Maintenance pages (finally). After I got done with that, I realized that I was supposed to meet Eric at Frog Level at 5 for casual beers. I hope he doesn't feel bad that I stood him up...? It was about 6:40 when I was done with the previous item, and I thought I would lay down for about 15 minutes. I set a timer for 15 minutes, and an alarm that would wake me up at 6:55. I started it (I saw it counting down), then went to lay down. About ~15 minutes later, I wake myself up, thinking that I overslept...again (see below). I woke up a minute before 7pm. Freaking out, I go over to my phone and try to call in. I see that my phone had only count down 2 seconds (from when I put it down), so it never counted down from 15 minutes. Somehow, I don't think my phone doesn't like to set alarms on Wednesday nights (see below, again). I called in to the teleconference, participated, and we were done in about 45 minutes. I then took it upon myself to clean out the office fridge. Long story short: it was over-freezing, so we turned down the temp. and the ice melted - all of it, so I transferred some out and emptied it in the sink. I then went home and watched some Big Bang, Futurama, Big Bang, and Battlestar Galactica. And that's just TODAY!


  • So, my Wednesday went a little wonkier than usual. I'll skim through the rest:


  • I created a Quote Generation System for Shadow Dev. I also created a Automatic Quote Followup system to send an email to the person who generated the quote for a followup. Quite nice if I say so.


  • The HCC Student Incubator was delayed until the beginning of September.


  • We recieved a new client: Premier Vacation Rentals


  • We gained a new staff member: Marti Daves! She comes to us with plenty of Project Manager experience, with a fine interest in hand-coding web development. Certainly a great addition to our team.


  • We re-worked the packets, again. Removed some pages, added some, and added a design to some of the packet folders. Hopefully, the response rate will be better.


  • Ordered 20 more bowls and sign holders. I find it hard to believe that each GLASS bowl was $1.44 each, but each PLASTIC sign holder was $5.34 each. It was pretty expensive, but the source for the sign holders was the least expensive option out of all of them that were researched.


  • I modified our Quota page to show what the Quarterly bonus would be if Quota is met. Should make things easier to manage


  • I created a newer version of a Contract Creator. Adding in some new clauses, price modifications, and service inclusions, and the new created contract is better than ever!


  • We launched the new SMDC design. Now to implement the information.


  • Added something a little different to a client: Instead of processing credit cards (as expected), they wanted "House" accounts (as in, give us your name, and we process your card on file). That wasn't discussed during the project negotiations, so the checkout system wasn't developed with that in mind. But, we did it.


  • Our first Contest winner won the free website, and turned it down, which is good and bad for us. Good: we have less work and don't have to shell out a loss to cover it. Bad: the Winner doesn't get a new site or PR, and we don't get good PR for offering this. Let's see how Round 2 goes...


  • After the last Monthly Meeting, I delegated out "Drinks with Geeks" and "Hello World". Good news: less on my plate to take care of. Now just to train/help the delegatees on how to do that.


  • I also created an auto-followup for websites that are analyzed using our GetMyAnalysis.com analyzer. For the past few weeks, the followup email would say "Get ____ service!" with a link, but never went anywhere. Now, the ordering page has all 3 services available, along with a checkout system (see above for more detail).



That's it for business. If you got this far, I know you're tired of reading this. I'll finish the rest quickly.

First, a bonus comic:
The System


Personal:

  • I reworked my Magic deck using Core 2013 cards. My battles with Chip and Keat are going better, and I'm not being slaughtered as badly.


  • I am now the Project Manager for Pi Lambda Phi Internationals for the front-end portion of the website. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it would be a good PR rep, along with experience in the PM world.


  • Allstate was charging me $51/mth for auto insurance. Peaking my curiosity, I searched for some quotes from other companies. Out of all of them, State Farm had the best rate at $37/mth. The rest were $44-84/mth (Geico, Nationwide, Progressive (which has a very flash-heavy version), Farmers (they operate as 21st Century around here), and more). I received an auto-followup email saying that my rate was $34/mth. I went to talk to the agent with a few questions, and she said that it was ~$32/mth. Maybe if I keep talking, it may drop below $0/mth! That'd be nice. Anyway, the same auto coverage I was getting from Allstate for $51/mth, I can get for $32/mth from State Farm. Talk about saving $100's (actually, about $240/yr). I have nothing against Allstate - I know my parents have been with them for years, and my policy was spun off about 6 months ago. My Allstate agent was super nice and helped me out a lot. State Farm just provided a better rate.


  • I tried watching the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. I'm sorry, but 5 episodes in, and I couldn't get into the storyline. It's too much like Warehouse 13, which I also couldn't get into.


  • I started watching Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version, with Katee Sackhoff). I'm not totally immersed like I was with Doctor Who, but I like it. Maybe it's because I'm writing a futuristic space-based manga called Phoenix Eye. I don't know...


  • I visited a new Jamacian restaurant around here called One Love. I gotta say: for being out in the middle of nowhere, it was some pretty good food! And not badly priced, either! As soon as I get my paycheck, I know where I'm going again!


  • I gathered the stamina and finally went to a meeting of the "Smoky Mountain Model Railroad Club" 3 weeks ago. I've had their brochure for about 6+ months. The club was mainly about O-Scale trains. Those are nice, but I prefer my N-Scale. I met a guy named Eric there and we tried to go train-spotting during the following week. Due to some bad communication with the relays, our spotting turned up empty. Regardless, it was good to meet someone new. We went to a guy's house in Canton who had a super-ginormous N-Scale layout that he had been building for 20 years. Let's just say that it puts my old 4'x8' plastic-grass oval track to shame. No, worst than shame; I may be in the same "sport" as him, but my set would be "Here's how to play Tee-ball" while his was MLB Atlanta Braves (I'm no sports fan, so if my analogy is incorrect, please let me know). I brought out my N-Scale set and a few books and hope I can go back soon and run my set.


  • Keat and I helped Janet cater a super-fancy party for one of Janet's friends. Let's just say that this guy's garage was the size of our house! He was super-nice, and certainly blows away the "I have a vault-load of money, therefore I have the right to be snooty" stereotype. I don't think this guy could be more friendly. Regardless, the catering event was fun, even if we did walk around for about 8 hours.


  • I am working on a new service called CityFix. It's only in Phase 1 so far, and I'm doing some additional research in order to complete this service. Apparently, there is a need for this, but it hasn't been thoroughly met...yet!


  • I receive daily emails from Randy Glasbergen's publisher for his comic. I will say that I appreciate his humor and quick wit, he has some super-strict copyright policies. If his comic is republished on ANY format, it is $25 per showing. Thank you Randy, but I don't have the budget to shell out $25 per comic. Maybe later...


  • I found a new YouTube series I like: Doctor Whooves. Yes, you read that right. I think my "Brony" is showing...


  • Keat and I attended a MTN. RENDEZVOUS Archery event late July. Personally, I thought "Okay, I pay $10, I get to shoot 10, maybe 15 targets down a range. Not too bad." Instead, Keat and I found out that it was 40+ targets in a woods-style shoot (uphill, downhill, around trees, across creeks, etc). It was 1 arrow per target. 5 pts for the animal (ranging from a rabbit to a bear), 8 points for the inner ring, and 10 points for center ring. I don't recall our scores, but (I believe) Keat beat me during the first 20, and I beat hear during the last 20. $10 for 40+ challenging targets? I'd do that again! (Minus the ticks - I found one on our bed during the next day, and one under my nipple (stop laughing) later that same day). Keat also found a local supplier of traditional archery supplies! Not too bad for one crazy and tiring day!



Okay, that's enough from me for now. Ranting over. Enjoy this penguin:
Penguin!


Tags:#thesystem #garfield #penguin #facebook #reader #americandad #rewards #maintenance #futurama #bigbang #quote #client #hcc #packets #bowls #contract #smdc #contest #magic #mtg #allstate #statefarm #doctorwho #torchwood #galatica #onelove #nscale #janet #archery

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July Progress + Christmas (List)!

It certainly seems like my posting frequency has been reduced to 1x/mth. Well, we'll see how it progresses.
Zits

Between my last post and now, here's a summary of the last month's operations:
Personal:

  • I started re-watching Voyager again (since July 1). I'm already on Season 3 Ep. 16. At this pace, I should be done with the whole series (again) by the end of the month.

  • Keat got me a new bow! It's a 45lb'er, so it takes a little more strength then the ones I've used before. My previous one was a 29#, and Keat's a 35#. I've developed some blisters and had some string-bite welts, but nothing permanent. With a little more strength training and practice, I should be able to hit the bullseye 9/10 times!

  • I went to Games and Gluttony in Canton in June. It was really fun - I learned to play some medieval games and had more than enough feast. Next event: SAAD in September!

  • Star Fleet! I'm already starting my Christmas list for this year. Here's my first item: Starfleet Uniform (pre 2370)

  • Next item: Tickets (and hotel, and airfare, and transport, and spending money) to ComiCon! I'm seeing all of the photos, videos, cosplays, merchandise, comics, etc, and it's just making me want to go even more!

  • I can't believe the last episode of Eureka airs next week. It will be missed!

  • Futurama's next season started on Wednesday at 10pm. This season has been....interesting.

  • I've taken up Python....again. Hopefully, I can stick with it this time. If Python sticks, I may try Ruby as well, if the server will support it.

  • I installed Debian on my work computer. Now it dual-boots into Win7 and Debian, although I'm using Debian more. There are only 2 differences between Win7 and Debian:
    1) I can't run Netflix. Without going into too-technical detail, Netflix uses SilverLight to play their titles. SilverLight is a MSFT product. Netflix/Microsoft has declared that SilverLight will NEVER be available for Linux (I can run it by creating a VirtualBox, but I have to install Windows on that Virtual partition in order to run anything. Apparently, I can't have the VirtualBox load the existing Windows partition because it doesn't like to work that way, and without the original installiation discs (the computer only came with a recovery partition), I can't install a 2nd copy of Windows on the VirtualBox, which means I can't run SilverLight, which means no Netflix)
    2) Windows-programs (and the Windows half of the hard drive) run SUPER SLOW whenever they are accessed. Quicken has to be run for financial records, and it runs like it is on a 256MB system instead of a 4GB. Everything else is super-fast.



Business:

  • A few tools have been created for public use: Phrase Encrypter, tinyJpg, FontTest, and GTS Homepage Tool (the last one we've had for a while, but we finally decided to release it for public use)

    And I created a Japanese Name/Word Generator. While working on Omega Noir, I needed a tool to help me create some Japanese names and words. Most of the japanese words in Omega Noir were created with this tool.

  • I've created an automated "Weekly Facebook Resource Mailer" that I call our "Web Utility" Newsletter. In short: this gathers all of the posts made on the Shadow Dev Facebook page (via RSS), puts them in a database, pulls out all of the ones from the past week (based on date comparison), makes those nice and pretty, then sends them out to everyone who wants a copy of it.

    I had a few issues with the initial concept of it, but after studying the structure of how the RSS feed was presented, but after looking at it with fresh eyes (after 24 hours), I figured out a good de-structuring method and configured the system to parse the RSS into the database. In short: it's working!

  • Today, I was invited to a grand opening of a new data center in Asheville. I invited Keat because I thought it would be a unique experience. Apparently, the experience was nowhere what we expected. Let me explain:

    Based on the original member invite that I received, my assumption was this:
    Arrive on site, see 20-30 people gathered in a small security room with some crackers and sodas, mingling for about 20 minutes, taking an extended tour of rows and rows of servers in a chilled room, seeing the backup generators, seeing the security room of a data center, following up for questions, leaving in about 1.5-2 hours

    Here's what actually happened:
    We arrived at 5:20 (10 minutes before the event "begins"), about 50 people were already there. We walked into a fairly large "lobby" (about 700 sq. ft.). I found my nametag and Keat had to write hers. Tours began at 6 and ran every 15 minutes, and we wrote our names at the top of the list.
    We found the "refreshments", which consisted of wine, beer, and water. More people gathered. After about 20 minutes, there wasn't any wiggle room in the lobby because of everyone cramming in (my assumption, 120ish). We were introduced to the "Board room" which had a large table of finger foods. We gathered some, ate, then tried to "wiggle" out. 5:45 - about 180 people, and more were pouring in. Keat and I were starting to get dizzy and a little claustrophobic.
    We gathered around the "tour table" hoping it would begin at 6 as expected. More people were coming in.
    6:05 - no tour, more people coming in. My guess - 200+. This arrangement made a sardine can look comfortable.
    6:10 - tour was about to begin. The guides looked at the list, looked around, looked at the list, looked around, said "We will only take 6 people on the tour." (I'm thinking: "6 people! That's only 1% of the people here! Come on!") The first 6 people around the table rushed to the hallway behind the guide. "1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6! Okay - that's it!" (I'm thinking: "WHAT!?! We were the first names on that list! We've been waiting ever since we got here! Why can't we.....aw, nevermind")
    Keat and I wiggled our way to the front door, threw our cups away, and drove off. So much for a tour.....

  • We had a some-what "Part 2" of the Shareholders meeting with Lockwood. Let's just say that the meeting was....more personal than business. It was good to catch up with Lockwood and Donna.

  • We had a meeting with the owner of Chimsesa (?). His product was definitely interesting, and I wish I could have helped him out, but he is looking for a Technical partner with a python background. That is one thing that I/we do not have.




That'll do it for now. My days have been merging with nights, and I'm lucky if I can recall what day it is. I'm trying to wake up at 9:30am. Let's just say that my 9:30am days are starting at about 12-1pm. So, my day consists of the following:
1pm-ish: Get up, get dressed, get to the office
1-7pm: Work on everything: programming, accounting, legal, project management, sales, secretary, janitorial, etc
7-10pm: Go home, do home-based chores (cut grass, laundry, dishwasher, clean up, cook, etc)
10ish: Dinner
11pm: more home-based chores (dishwasher, laundry, gather files, feed the cats, etc), go for a daily walk
11-1am: Get ready for the night (help with pills, tuck Keat in bed, etc)
1am - 4:30ish: work/program (while either listening to music or watching Netflix)
4:30ish - 9:30am: sleep
9:30am - 1pm: attempt to get up, sleep more
Repeat


Tags:#startrek #voyager #zits #archery #comicon #saad #sca #python #win7 #debian #netflix #silverlight #virtualbox #tools #datacenter #

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Drums Drenched at War

JoyofTech


I thought the above comic would be appropriate after last weekend's drenching. Let me explain: there is good news and somewhat bad news.

The Good News:

  • We met a new SCA friend named Bryan (SCA Name: Boar). Very funny guy, and it's amazing what helping a friend will do for you

  • I placed 5th in the first Archery Prize Shoot! (not bad since I had been placing last in almost all competition)

  • I placed 3rd in the second Archery Prize Shoot! (and tied with one of the best archers in the kingdom!)

  • I was recognized in Court for the 3rd place above! Yay!



The Bad News:

  • It was hot, then we got drenched. Here's the story:
    Saturday started out hot, and just got hotter. With most SCA events, most people set up a table in front of their tent for cooking, planning, lighting, etc, and place chairs outside for resting. Most people also place dayshades over the table so their table doesn't get too hot. We did all of these, like smart Scadians. Anyway, after all of the competitions and contests, we went back to our tent to wait for Court in a few hours. We saw the dark clouds in the sky and thought "I hope the rain isn't too much." The 3 of us (House of Felis Noir) were sitting under our dayshade to cool ourselves off and saw our friendly ex-baron Axel. We all said "Hi" and struck up a conversation. A little later, our new friend Boar brought us 4 frozen lemonades. What a great friend. He then offered for us to sit with him under his dayshade since ours was a little full with the table, cooking, and lighting items. We moved our chairs and sat with him eating/drinking our frozen lemonades.

    The clouds above started getting darker and the trees made an odd noise. Boar looked up and said "I hope the wind isn't too much, because this [dayshade] isn't staked down." At that moment, I grabbed one of the legs of the dayshade to hopefully keep it on the ground.

    No more than a second later, a huge gust of wind came from the side (almost hurricane strength) and started blowing us over. Boar started to notice the dayshade was going to give way, and said "Let it go! Let it go!" I wish I could. The dayshade had latched onto me, flipped, and dragged me about 10 feet. Our dayshade fell over with not much damage, but before I could get to my feet to start to regain an understanding of the situation, a massive downpour came and drenched anything that was outside. Our dayshade already collapsed on itself (almost nicely) and we had a few people helping us to get the table, cooking, and lighting materials inside our tent. We zipped up our tent with everything we could get, and Boar let us stay in his almost-empty tent for the storm.

    While we were waiting for the rain to pass, the wind decided to pick up again. With Boar's tent, it was a large rectangle, so it deflected most of the wind, but the 4 of us were posed in corners trying to keep his tent up. Not really a bad situation, but when the tent (with 4 people in it) is tilting 40+ degrees, it turns a little more serious. Boar was afraid that the wind was going to pick up the tent and we were all going to die. To be honest, I'm glad we didn't.

    I kept one corner of his windows open to keep an eye on our tent. Luckily, a modern tent saved the day. I know that being part of the SCA means having medevial tents, but modern dome tents help fend off strong winds by deflecting the wind direction and bending with the flow. Luckily, our tent (after bending and twisting in odd angles) did survive the impact. A few corners inside were wet, but nothing inside was too drenched. Us, on the other hand, were soaking.

    As far as I know, there weren't many casualties aside from a few bumps and bruises, and one tent did collapse in on itself, which was bad. We were lucky that Boar's tent was in front of ours so it did deflect a lot of the stronger winds. A little later, we had a smaller rainstorm and then the sun. When the sun came out, it got hot again. We had "Survivor's Court" a little later and laughed about the situation. Boar kept telling my story and was saying that I was a "F***ed up Mary Poppins". I'm glad I can laugh at that.



So the week begins anew and life begins again. I'm back at work and hopefully can get some of this insanity down to some sane level.

BTW: I thought this was appropriate for the SSL issue a few weeks ago:
There, I fixed It!
What IT Support really looks like


Tags:#sca #war #rain #dayshade #it #support #felisnoir #hot #wet #archery